The Chicago Blackhawks have recalled forward Tanner Kero from the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, the team announced Tuesday. Fellow rookie Vincent Hinostroza was reassigned to Rockford earlier in the day in order to clear room on the roster.
Kero, 23, has been the IceHogs' best player during the first couple weeks of the season. An undrafted free agent out of Michigan Tech who signed a 2-year deal with Chicago last spring, he's third in the AHL with six goals and 10th with eight points. For the week ending Oct. 25, Kero was named the AHL Player of the Week.
The Blackhawks have been looking for solutions to solidify their third line, first turning to Hinostroza after the options on the opening day roster underwhelmed. The former Notre Dame star didn't do enough to keep his spot, failing to record a point in just 35 minutes of ice time over four games. He'll return to Rockford and keep working on his game for now. He has recorded one assist in two games with Rockford this fall.
Kero is next in line, and like Hinostroza, he's an undersized center who put up big numbers in college. Kero went undrafted before heading to Michigan Tech, but by the end of his time there, he was one of the best players in college hockey. As a senior, he recorded 46 points in 41 games.
That strong performance has continued since Kero moved to the AHL, where he established himself as Rockford's best player on a team featuring top prospects like Marko Dano, Ryan Hartman and Ville Pokka. Kero wasn't even listed among the Hawks' Top 10 prospects by ESPN entering the season, yet he's done nothing but produce over the past year-plus on the ice. Now it seems like Chicago is intrigued enough to see whether that trend can continue at the sport's highest level.
Kero should have some help with talented wings. Teuvo Teravainen, Ryan Garbutt and Viktor Tikhonov have been rotating between those two spots on the third line most recently. Kero's more of a two-way player and shooter than a big-time playmaker, but the Hawks need to keep working to find ways to get production on the third line. Whether that comes from getting Teuvo going or unearthing production from a guy like Kero, the team keeps searching.